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Abu Dhabi conference spotlights ‘rogue refrigerants’

The adverse impact of HCFCs and HFCs on the environment and incremental steps to phase them out, form the focus of discussions involving UNEP and ASHRAE.

| | Sep 30, 2011 | 2:22 pm
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The adverse impact of HCFCs and HFCs on the environment and incremental steps to phase them out, form the focus of discussions involving UNEP and ASHRAE. Text: B Surendar | Photographs: Amaresh Bhaskaran

The Montreal Protocol was a key focus of discussions spearheaded by UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme) officials and regional and international HVACR professionals that had gathered to attend a key two-day ASHRAE (American Society of Refrigerating, Heating & Air-Conditioning Engineers) conference hosted by Abu Dhabi on September 19 and 20.

The ASHRAE Chapter Regional Conference (CRC), inaugurated by H.E. Dr Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad, the UAE Minister of Environment & Water and held under his patronage, lived up to its expectations as an important link to the feverish global discussions on HCFCs (Hydro Chloro Fluoro Carbons), which Dr Adel Farid Abdel-Kader, Officer Of Charge of UNEP Regional Office for West Asia, described as being 2,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide and adding to global warming.

Dr. Abdel-Kader, also speaking on behalf of UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, said the mission to phase out HCFCs remained incomplete, adding that more effort was needed to achieve the 2013 target of doing away with the refrigerant.

The UNEP official said that the phase-out actions so far had contributed to reducing the impact on the environment. Further actions, he added, represented a unique opportunity to achieve cutting-edge technology and lower energy costs.

To facilitate the transition, parties of the Montreal Protocol are considering further amendments, including bringing HFCs (Hydro Fluoro Carbons) under the Protocol. HFCs don’t affect the ozone layer but cause global warming. Keeping this in mind, efforts are on to leapfrog HFCs, wherever possible, and use refrigerants that have low ozone-depleting potential as well as low global warming potential.

The Conference also saw a broad discussion on sustainability, with Abu Dhabi’s much-lauded Estidama and Masdar project and Qatar’s sustainability standard, QSAS (Qatar Sustainability Assessment System) getting a fair bit of airing.

A key highlight of the Conference was an announcement by Empower CEO, Ahmad Bin Shafar on the much-awaited ASHRAE design guideline for district cooling. Speaking at the CRC, Bin Shafar revealed that the guideline, which would give direction in the design and building of plant rooms and chilled water distribution networks, would be released in November 2011, thus fulfilling a long-felt and critical need of the industry. Empower has sponsored the important initiative.

Speaking of the key achievements of the Conference, its General Chair, Dr Ahmed Alaa Eldin, said that the aim was to meet the clarion call of H.E. Dr. Rashid Ahmad Bin Fahad for greater involvement from ASHRAE in establishing standards and regulations to safeguard the environment. Dr Eldin, who is also President of the ASHRAE Emirates Falcon Chapter, said that the discussions that took place during the Conference would be amplified to a larger audience with the aim of attracting industry feedback on crucial issues. The Falcon Chapter, he added, would aim to keep the discussions alive, till such time that there was substantial progress on issues, out of which would emerge recommendations. “The Minister said that it was not enough to address only ozone depletion but also how to reduce energy consumption,” Dr Eldin said. “To that effect, we will keep our efforts on and explore how to achieve the target through collaboration and discussion with key stakeholders within and outside the ASHRAE fold. Ultimately, we would like the discussions to as much contribute to Abu Dhabi’s grand 2030 Vision.”

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